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Hear Res. 2014 Aug;314:51-9. doi: 10.1016/j.heares.2014.05.004. Epub 2014 Jun 7.

The auditory corticocollicular system: molecular and circuit-level considerations.

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Neuroscience Program, UIUC, USA.
Neuroscience Program, UIUC, USA; Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, UIUC, USA; Beckman Institute, Urbana, IL, USA. Electronic address:


We live in a world imbued with a rich mixture of complex sounds. Successful acoustic communication requires the ability to extract meaning from those sounds, even when degraded. One strategy used by the auditory system is to harness high-level contextual cues to modulate the perception of incoming sounds. An ideal substrate for this process is the massive set of top-down projections emanating from virtually every level of the auditory system. In this review, we provide a molecular and circuit-level description of one of the largest of these pathways: the auditory corticocollicular pathway. While its functional role remains to be fully elucidated, activation of this projection system can rapidly and profoundly change the tuning of neurons in the inferior colliculus. Several specific issues are reviewed. First, we describe the complex heterogeneous anatomical organization of the corticocollicular pathway, with particular emphasis on the topography of the pathway. We also review the laminar origin of the corticocollicular projection and discuss known physiological and morphological differences between subsets of corticocollicular cells. Finally, we discuss recent findings about the molecular micro-organization of the inferior colliculus and how it interfaces with corticocollicular termination patterns. Given the assortment of molecular tools now available to the investigator, it is hoped that his review will help guide future research on the role of this pathway in normal hearing.

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